Plus ça change, plus c'est le meme old merde

I loved this film back in '76 when I was 23 and now 44 years later, I still do.

I’m considering, for my sanity, not reading the news any more. Anybody agree?

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I think it depends on which news you follow. I began reading The Guardian in 1971, but fifty (!) years later, so much of it seems irrelevant to my life in France, not least as I’ve no desire to visit the UK. My news junkie feeds still include the forementioned Grauniad, but I read very litttle of it - like R4 too insular, much morerelevant are my Le Monde and Midi-Libre feeds, with in addition the New York Times which has better international stories and also Fr 24 TV. So, by the time I’ve ingested and digested these feeds and finished my croissant , I feel ready to face the world from an informed position (even if I can’t change any of it!)


I’m going through similar changes. I now actively try to avoid the supine BBC news - preferring France 24, which is both more French and more international. My daily reading of The Guardian no longer extends to the news, nor any of it’s ‘Westminster bubble’ political correspondents - but it does still have some of the best columnists in the world - preeminently Aditya Chakrabortty and George Monbiot, and on occasion half a dozen others, still including the previously regular Gary Younge. Like many, I increasingly rely on social media - not on news feeds, but on my networks to personally recommend interesting specialist stuff in obscure places.

In part it is no doubt part of our immigrant transition - but there is also, I’m sure, a decline in quality in UK news media.


Not only in the UK, but worldwide.
Young people do not even bother to listen to decent journalism, but are content to listen to the latest drivel on their social media.

The only time a newspaper isn’t lying to you is when it’s wrapped around fish and chips.


Or on a string beside the loo!

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Absolutely! It’s been a ‘thing’ of mine for some years now. I very largely have given up on ‘the news’. I am not a journalist but I have been involved with the creation of ‘news’.

First things first. Much ‘news’ reported in Western news media is not news. It is the reporting of events, most of which are totally irrelevant to the reader/viewer. Or it is material provided, gift wrapped, by the sources of the stories - PR agencies, scientific institutions, think tanks etc. On a small business course we were told that XX% [a large %] of ‘news’ was provided by the entity being reported - go and do thou likewise… “Company produces new, improved grobbet enfrobigators, leads the field…”

The sort of thing I mean: ‘Bus plunges into ravine in Bolivia: 45 feared dead'Illicit alcohol distilled from boot polish kills 9 at wedding party in Indian village*’ ‘House fire in Wakefield: Mother and three children found dead’ These are events, concerning nobody but the families of the casualties and the engaged authorities at the locale.

But the constant reporting of events like these, remote as they may be from the reader geographically and socially, contributes to a constant drip-drip of anxiety. One can do nothing to help in any way but one’s sympathy is aroused, to no purpose.

Then there is ‘commentry’ and ‘analysis’, social, financial and, very much so - political. It is mostly pure speculation and/or wiseacreing. Any of us could do it - and on fora, frequently do - without payment.

The moment I knew I’d had it with this stuff was when I read the chief political correspondent of The Independent newspaper write, “At a secret meeting of the cabinet later today, the Prime minister will tell them …”. Think about that statement.

I finally gave up on The Indy, which I had taken since the first issue, when it was revealed to have cropped a photograph to tell a lie. Happens all the time …

The photograph showed a long queue of people waiting in a snowy Moscow square. The text described these people as waiting for hours for a bread shop to open, the point being shortages in Moscow.

However, the lie was revealed when a letter from someone who walked to work through that square every day told us that the picture desk had cropped out a church. The people were waiting for it to open.

The apology by the editor of the paper was duly at grovel-level. Too late, for me.

I was responsible for the dissemination of the photography content of stories written by ‘journalists’ reporting the war against the Russians, from the mujahiddin p.o.v.

The US State Dept created a news media agency, The Afghan Media Resource Centre, in Peshawar, Pakistan. At the time - late 1980’s - there was very little reporting of this war except for the very occasional piece by a freelance hitching a ride with a muj combat unit. The rest was Soviet propaganda, supporting the puppet regime of their place-man.

In fact, before I was commissioned to set up a colour processing line, colour film was processed by ‘Kodak Agency’ in the bazaar. It was common knowledge that a second set of prints was run off and sold to the opposition.

AMRC would be advised that a combat unit was going on a mission in Afghanistan and would ‘embed’ as we now term it, a video cameraman, a photographer and a journalist to report this mission.

The three guys had no more qualifications for their roles than that they happened to come to the head of a queue at one of the three desks set up in a refugee camp, one for ‘journalists’ [“Can you read and write English? … Sign here”], video cameraman and photographer. These latter two being given basic training in operating their equipment.

The results brought back were edited, packaged and sent to western news agencies and outlets - AFP, AP, Visnews, BBC, NBC etc. My role waas to supervise the processing, printing, captioning and making up of the photo package supporting the text pieces. The archive is now in the Library of Congress.

"Mujahiddin fighters destroyed a Russian tank … " “Mujahiddin fighters report village bombed by Soviet warplanes…”

The State Dept and Pentagon were presumably pleased that these reports supported the US position on Afghanistan during the Russian occupation, purely on the basis that they existed. The content and the effect on the readers back in the US, UK, and elsewhere was irrelevant. Nobody could ‘do anything’, about anything concerning the issue, except perhaps donate to The Red Cross, M.S.F. or UNHCR.

One might be asked, for example, “How can you stay informed enough to decide who to vote for?” Difficult question, given the lies, damned lies and statistics that constitute much of the ‘information’.

After all, one of Prof John Curtice’s most revealing charts - possibly the key factor - showed the curves of educational attainment vesus Remain/Leave voting in the Brexit referendum.

Little or no educational attainment, and by reasonable extrapollation, little reliable information and cogent argument, did not inhibit most at the bottom end of that curve to vote ‘Leave’.


Very interesting post Christopher.

Well, I do believe the results on the sports pages. It’s the only part of many newspapers that an be trusted.

It’s true that I cannot believe the string of losses by Liverpool F.C. but that’s not a reporting issue … :scream:

The very thing I was going on about - reporting an event in ‘the news’ … I was channel-hopping last night and hit CNN just as it began its ‘news’ prog.

The first item was this

“12 killed in SUV carrying 25 passengers in a collision with a semi, in Imperial County, Southern California” Footage of police wandering about on a road in Imperial County, Southern California.

Imperial County, Southern California deemed unfamiliar to all not resident in Imperial County, Southern California, so a graphic showing the entire USA, with California outlined and a tiny red square arrowed, showing Imperial County, Southern California.

We are all suitably regretful and sympathetic …

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This is being borne out by the reluctance of people to have the vaccine. They listen to rumour and take it as truth.
Mind you, Project Fear is now coming into its own!

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Thanks Christopher, interesting reading. All Western news comes from three agencies - Reuters in the UK, AP in the US and AFP here. Very few outlets have their own reporters on the ground and so they just rehash the news they are fed on the wire. That’s why if you do bother with the news it doesn’t make any difference which channel or paper you read. They’re all churning out the same garbage!

And as for manipulation of the media, the film Wag the Dog is brilliant. Fiction…or is it :thinking:

That reminds me of a time we had a family holiday in the USA in the mid '90s.

One evening in LA we were watching the news, and a report came in of an IRA bombing in the UK.

Here’s what was said: “The Irish Republic Army exploded a bomb in the railway station in London, England. No-one was hurt. London is near Europe.”
The accompanying pictures showed a map of Western Europe, with a dot in the middle of Wales marked ‘London’.

This is not a criticism of the fine citizens of the USA - just a comment on where parochialism leads us…

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My gripe with so much so-called “news” is that I thought that “news” was supposed to be synonymous with “reporting”. If something hasn’t happened you can’t report it, it is merely speculation or opinion.
e.g “The prime Minister is expected to announce…”
“It is thought that …”
Events in … would seem to indicate…" etc.

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I think reporting serious, expert prediction of the consequences of government etc decisions and actions is very important. What I don’t like are the attempts to ‘set the news agenda’, especially by tricking people into rash statements. I haven’t listened to it for years, but this practice was already seriously distorting the Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme 10 or 15 years ago. Instead of really getting to the underlying truth, interviewers merely sought the controversial slip that would dominate the news ‘agenda’ later that day.

One of the most infuriating proponents of this was/is Eddie Maire. I had it with him when, as presenter of The World at One, he persisted in trying - repeatedly badgered - the Chief Constable of a county police force to declare that the decision of a jury to bring in a ‘not guilty’ verdict was wrong. Utterly disgraceful. The Chief Constable handled this appalling situation with great aplomb and forebearance. I was raging at the radio.

See my particular example, above.

It is the case that sometimes ministers or civil servants leak stuff which the scribbler has to make out is speculation or " expert prediction" as Geof Cox puts it. But most political ‘reporting’ or analysis is pure wiseacreing and speculation.

The problem started with WW2. Everyone was involved. Everyone had family and friends serving in the Armed Forces. The country was in danger. It was perfectly reasonable for there to be frequent news bulletins on the radio.

The news depts ballooned. The habit stuck. Along came TV and now this output could have pictures, till we get to the ridiculous position where a mention of a hospital, for whatever reason, has to have a clip of that hospital, preferably the sign board “Borsetshire General Hospital”

And, as a snapper, I am incensed at the continuing habit of vision clips on TV doing what started as a bit ‘arty’ but very quickly became a banal cliche - holding focus on something irrelevant in the foreground - branches waving in the breeze, the trunk of a tree - while the interviewer and interviewee are seen in the b/g, out of focus. It simply reinforces the point that ‘the news’ is part of the entertinment strand of TV.

When on location in L.A. as happened 2-3 times a year for a few years, I always ordered the Sunday edition of the L.A. Times. It was about 120mm thick, mostly advertising sections. What struck me was how vanishingly little of the world beyond California and the hot-spots on the east coast was to be seen. Europe was conspiculous by its absence.

It is still the case that 60% of Americans do not have passports.

After a worldwide search, the perfect pair of twin women were identified by the ad agency with the Courvoisier brandy account for UK. Candy and Randy [I kid you not!] were on the books of a small talent agency in Hollywood. Tall, blonde and identical, they were booked. Dates for the shoot were set. Brocket Hall was signed up. Designs for the banqueting hallto be turned into a Napoleonic Cavalry Officers’ Mess were drawn up.

Uniforms for 60-70 Cavalry Officers were on order at Berman & Nathan’s. A huge painting of Bony, to go on the end wall, was commissioned.

Then someone thought to ask the agency in CA, "Your girls do have passports, yes? England is … umm … abroad. "

No, they didn’t.

So all was stood down while Randy and Candy applied for passports. Apart from Texas, where they came from, and California, where they got jobs as identical tall blonde twins, they had never been anywhere else, even in the USA.

We did eventually get them over. Their contract included a chaperone and - to remind them of home - two chocolate iced milk-shakes per girl per day. A fridge was hired specially for the milk-shakes.


We’re at cross-purposes there Christopher - I had in mind not any politician’s or correspondent’s opinions, but genuine expert prediction, such as that recently addressed to the Association of British Insurers by the head of the UK Environment Agency…

“Much higher sea levels will take out most of the world’s cities, displace millions, and make much of the rest of our land surface uninhabitable or unusable,. Much more extreme weather will kill more people through drought, flooding, wildfires and heatwaves than most wars have.

“The net effects will collapse ecosystems, slash crop yields, take out the infrastructure that our civilisation depends on, and destroy the basis of the modern economy and modern society.

“If [this] sounds like science fiction let me tell you something you need to know. This is that over the last few years the reasonable worst case for several of the flood incidents the Environment Agency has responded to has actually happened,"

The reporting of actual events is only in the last sentence - but predictions like this, I’m sure you’ll agree, should be top of the news. Sadly, they’re not.

(Brexit, of course, gave us many examples of experts in every field telling us what the impact would be - virtually ignored in most media in favour of empty political rhetoric.)

So many injuries! :worried: